CLEARFIELD – Community stakeholders gathered for the Clearfield Revitalization Corp.’s (CRC) sixth annual town hall meeting last evening at the St. Charles Café in downtown Clearfield.
President Katie Penoyer thanked those in attendance for their support of the CRC and the Main Street Program. She followed with opening remarks, saying return on investment is the motivation behind community revitalization and comes in various forms.
According to her, for government officials determining funding allocations, it may be in the form of in-kind donations and leveraged private monies. For a business owner, it may be efforts and expenses resulting in growth opportunities. And, for a volunteer, it may be their time.
The return on investment, she said, may come as opportunities to build relationships or to understand different facets of the community. She said it may come from being assured that you’re doing your part within the community. Most importantly, she said it’s the crafting of experiences to strengthen the economy and to bring young professionals back to Clearfield.
Over the past year, Penoyer said it became a priority for the CRC to establish its Youth Council. “I’ve heard it said that “our area’s No. 1 export is our young people,’” she said. “Well, we’re working to change that … and I know that we’re on the right track.”
She encouraged those in attendance to “take a walk through town” and to start “adding up the dollars and the hours” that have been invested over the past decade, not just directly by the CRC, but by so many other public and private efforts. “You will feel that difference and you will feel that momentum in town,” she said.
Looking to Clearfield’s future, Penoyer said there are more “incredible improvements” coming, such as the Streetscape and Riverfront projects. She said those two projects alone have the potential to be “real game changers” in terms of revitalization opportunities.
“We’re at a critical point in our town’s story, and we invite you to invest in its next chapters,” said Penoyer. “The reasons we come together in these efforts are varied, but the results are singularly amazing.”
Main Street Manager Loretta Wagner joined the CRC in September of 2014, and to date she said “it’s been a great ride.” She was welcomed into her position with community enthusiasm for the CRC’s projects, which has assured her she will have continued support moving forward.
The CRC, she explained, is comprised of four committees – Design, Economic Restructuring, Promotions and Organization. She said its committees serve as the “vehicles for implementing revitalization” in downtown Clearfield and without their committees of volunteers their revitalization plans wouldn’t come to fruition.
Wagner said that the CRC has received national accreditation for four consecutive years. She noted that the CRC is one of 32 and one of 600 Main Street Programs in Pennsylvania and the United States, respectively. “It’s an honor to get nationally accredited and to keep it for four years,” said Wagner.
According to her, Pennsylvania’s average for Main Street Program volunteers is 1,668 hours per year. However, she said that the CRC has 5,754 volunteer hours per year, and it’s quite an honor to have that much support from its committees of volunteers and others from the community.
The CRC’s Design Committee, she said, focuses on enhancing the image of downtown Clearfield and its Main Street District. She said the committee assists with the development of a distinct character for the downtown and the CRC’s Façade Program.
Further, Wagner said the committee not only organizes the CRC Beautification Day, but also offers recommendations to merchants regarding storefronts and signage. The committee’s Façade Improvement Program has awarded funds for the renovation of 45 downtown storefronts, which in turn has generated more than $455,665 in private and public investments since 2008, said Wagner.
More changes, she said, will come to Clearfield with the Streetscape and Riverfront projects. She said the CRC’s five-year strategy for the future will include: workshops for area merchants; plans to improve the arts and culture of the community; opportunities to enhance recreational amenities with the Riverfront project; establishment of relationships with the area’s educational institutions; continuation of the Youth Council’s involvement; programs on business retention and recruitment, etc.
Lisa Kovalick, chairwoman of the Economic Restructuring Committee, said the committee works at finding new ways to help the existing Main Street businesses prosper. She said it also works at recruiting new businesses to fill its downtown storefronts.
The committee, she said, has developed a Best Practices Guide to maintain existing businesses. Additionally, she said it’s developed a New Business Guide that assists any individuals or families who want to relocate a new business into the Main Street District.
Kovalick said the committee organized programs for Small Business Saturday to encourage more shopping in downtown Clearfield. She said its 12 Days of Christmas promotion, which had participation from 14 local businesses, resulted in more than 350 visits. Kovalick said the committee is currently working on a Secret Shopper Program to offer merchants feedback from shoppers but is in need of volunteer shoppers.
The Main Street District consists of 196 storefronts, which is an increase of seven from 2009. Vacant storefronts have increased from seven to nine due to the expansion of the Main Street District. “But it will make room for development, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s keeping what we have, developing new and seeing Clearfield flourish,” she said.
Rob Bozovich, who is chairman of the Promotions Committee, spoke about CRC events. He said the committee organizes events that either draws people into downtown Clearfield or helps benefit local merchants. Bozovich boasted the success of the CRC’s 5K race, which has several hundred participants, and the downtown’s largest event, the Clearfield Fall Festival.
These events have been so successful, he said, because everyone comes together. “We have a few people here who are passionate about making the event go off and then we have the other local groups and organizations getting together and rallying around it,” he said.
According to him, the Promotions Committee wants to recreate downtown Clearfield into a scene from a small town out of a 1950’s movie or television show. He said the committee will be trying a Downtown Dining Day and a Shop Local Program.
“It’s about finding ideas and bringing them forth with the people who are passionate,” said Bozovich. “It can be any idea that you have.” He encouraged attendees to bring ideas to the Promotions Committee and to donate some of their time with the CRC finding additional volunteers to bring their ideas to fruition.
Jack Soult of the CRC Youth Council shared about its first project, a semi-formal dance. The council, he said, plans to “start small” and raise funds for a bike rack to be installed in downtown Clearfield. He said, “I think it’s important to start small, produce ideas and set an example for kids for the future.”
The Youth Council, he said, wants to encourage kids to stay in Clearfield versus moving away. He said other kids his age always say Clearfield doesn’t have anything for them to do. However, he said the Youth Council has plans to “sell” what the community does have to offer and to generate an interest in order to build a foundation for the future of the community.
Joe Kelly, chairman of the Organization Committee, said the committee does all of the “behind the scenes” work in regards to the budget, fundraisers and the Partnership Program. The CRC, he said, no longer receives funding from the state Department of Community & Economic Development for its operational activities, meaning it needs community support now more than ever to keep the momentum and excitement moving forward.
Kelly said there are a number of ways for people to help support the CRC. As part of the Streetscape project, he said the CRC has benches, planters, garbage cans, bike racks, etc. available for sale, which is a way to not only support the CRC, but also to have a role in the beautification of downtown Clearfield.
The CRC, he said, also has a Partnership Program that offers an opportunity to financially support its day-to-day activities/programs. He said the program has multiple levels from corporate, which includes partnership benefits, to grassroots for individuals and families.
Kelly stressed the CRC is always seeking volunteers to see its revitalization plans through completion. He encouraged any interested individual to reach out to Wagner or any other CRC board or committee member about becoming a volunteer.